DELUSIONALS: "Detached from reality," Barr (almost) said!

TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2022

So too with our upper-end press corps: BREAKING! 

In certain highly specific circumstances, members of our upper-end "press corps" are willing to refer to "mental illness."

We know this because of the latest "Conversation" between Gail and Bret (Collins and Stephens) in the New York Times.

The Times publishes their joke-riddled colloquies on a weekly basis. In this morning's print editions, this exchange occurs:

Bret (6/14/22): Another question for you, Gail. We were talking a few weeks ago about the advisability of allowing protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices. Now there’s been a deadly serious attempt against Justice Kavanaugh. Does this change your thinking on the subject?

Gail: Well, the upshot of the story is that you’ve got a mentally ill man who flies from California intending to kill Kavanaugh, then sees the security detail near his home and instantly confesses his intention by phone.

This sort of thing absolutely has to be taken very, very, very seriously...

Just last week, a 26-year-old man did indeed fly from California to D.C. intending to kill Justice Kavanaugh. 

After flying to one of the area's airports, he took a taxicab to Kavanaugh's home! When he saw a security detail was present, he did confess his intention by phone, then submitted himself to arrest.

Right there in today's New York Times, Collins, who isn't a medical specialist, calls this man "mentally ill." We aren't saying she's wrong in that assessment. Instead, we're calling attention to the fact that she actually said what she said.

Collins' statement illustrates a certain significant fact. In certain circumstances, members of our upper-end press corps are prepared to assert that some such condition as "mental illness" exists in our actual world.

We note this fact because people like Collins refuse to apply this understanding in other high-profile circumstances. This brings us back to what William Barr has said about Donald J. Trump.

Yesterday morning, the world in sin and error pining saw what Citizen Barr had said as part of a sworn deposition. 

Barr was describing a meeting with Trump on December 14, 2020. Once again, here's what he said:

BARR: When I walked in, sat down, he went off on a monologue saying that there was now definitive evidence involving fraud through the Dominion [voting] machines, and a report had been prepared by a very reputable cybersecurity firm which he identified as Allied Security Operations Group. 

And he held up the report, and he asked that a copy of it be made for me, and while a copy was being made, he said, "This is absolute proof that Dominion machines were rigged. This report means that I am going to have a second term."

And then he gave me a copy of the report, and as he talked more and more about it, I sat there flipping through the report and looking through it. And to be frank, it looked very amateurish to me. 

It didn't have the credentials of the people involved but I didn't see any real qualifications, and the statements made were very conclusory, like "These machines were designed to engage in fraud," or something to that effect. But I didn't see any supporting information for it.

And I was somewhat demoralized because I thought, "Boy, if he believes this stuff, he has lost contact with—he's become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff."

According to Barr, he had the following thought as Trump staged his latest monologue. He wondered if the commander in chief had "lost contact with / become detached from reality."

We have no way of knowing if Barr really had some such thought. But it's almost like the attorney general was wondering if the commander in chief was delusional in some clinical sense—was some version of "mentally ill."

This very morning, on Morning Joe, Claire McCaskill flatly rejected that notion. She correctly noted that Barr only said that Trump was delusional if he really believes this stuff—and she said she doesn't believe that Trump ever really did.

McCaskill said she doesn't believe that Trump really believed all that crap. She might be totally right about that, or she could always be wrong.

McCaskill, of course, has no ultimate way of knowing what Trump believed. She isn't a medical specialist either. Neither of course is Barr.

That said, we can be sure of one thing. People like McCaskill, Collins and Stephens will not refer to Donald J. Trump as being "mentally ill." Indeed, they won't even discuss the possibility that Trump is (severely) mentally ill in some particular way. 

Also, they won't interview (carefully selected) medical specialists about this sensitive topic. They won't engage such people in conversation about this possibility, which seems to be blatantly obvious.

Ever since the aftermath of the 1964 election, a certain dogma has prevailed within our upper-end press corps. Our journalists will not apply psychiatric assessments in discussing political figures. They'll do so in cases involving the average shlub, but not with a person like Trump.

This stance has been adopted in deference to the so-called "Goldwater rule." It explains why Collins will state the apparently obvious about one person, but not about another.

During his presidency, was Donald J. Trump "delusional" in some clinical sense? He's had us wondering about that for a fairly long time, but we aren't medical specialists either—and the realm of mental health and mental illness is conceptually complex.

It isn't easy for laypersons to talk about mental health and mental disorder. That said, it seems fairly obvious that our failing society is increasingly in the hands of people with such disabilities—and it isn't just the occasional guy who flies in from the coast.

In the next few days, we're going to look at mental disorder and its discontents. We'll focus on the complexity of the topic—and on the ways our mainstream press corps avoids this basic part of 20th century medical science.

Is Donald J. Trump "detached from reality" in some clinical sense? Is it possible that he really believed the lunatic claims he was hearing from his posse of preferred advisers—from apparent crackpots like Giuliani, Powell and Flynn?

We're not sure how to answer that question, but the denizens of our upper-end press corps have sworn an oath to avoid any such discussion. In that sense, our journalists have been detached from a basic part of reality for a great many years.

Tomorrow: The nature of "mental disorder"


  1. Oh dear. Dear Bob and his mentally ill hobby horse...

    What about dementia, dear Bob? Are your tribe's upper-end press corps prepared to assert that dementia exists in our actual world?

    ...that your tribe's leader is severely demented?

    ...yeah, and don't forget the nuclear codes, dear Bob! The nuclear codes!!! Aren't you scared on account of a brain-dead creature controlling the nuclear codes?

    1. It’s Treat Mao Nice Day.
      I’ll go first.
      Mao, I hope the Establishment Elites you work for got taken by Trump’s grift Election Defense Fund for a lot more money than you did.

    2. Mao,
      Your only half a troll. You’re a total sucker.
      Who’s next?

  2. "And I was somewhat demoralized because I thought, "Boy, if he believes this stuff, he has lost contact with—he's become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff."

    According to Barr, he had the following thought as Trump staged his latest monologue. He wondered if the commander in chief had "lost contact with / become detached from reality.""

    Somerby has never heard of a "figure of speech" apparently. Barr does not say that he wondered if the commander in chief had lost contact with reality. He says that he thought that if Trump really believed the content of a specific report, he must have lost contact with reality. He was wondering how Trump could believe a report that shoddy, not whether he had actually lost contact with reality.

    That's because Barr, unlike Somerby, understands that language can be figurative and not literal.

    How do we know Barr didn't consider Trump actually out of touch with reality? Barr didn't do any of the things that someone actually wondering such a thing would have done. He didn't express concern about Trump's delusions to anyone else. He didn't express such concerns to the 1/6 committee (aside from this remark). He didn't join with those suggesting invoking Article 25 (at least 3 other cabinet members). He didn't express concern to Trump's family or his doctor. He went right on treating Trump as if he were a competent president (by Republican standards). In fact, he treated Trump as if he were engaged in a grift, a con, from which he distanced himself because it was recognizably illegal and corrupt. His later resignation showed that this was his estimation of Trump's behavior.

    This is an important reason why mental health experts require training in order to diagnose people. Otherwise, an excessively literal or motivated person might wrongly use figures of speech to call someone deranged. Recall that one person's political statements (e.g., MTG or Boebert) is another person's word salad.

    Somerby keeps forgetting that if he considers Trump to be mentally ill, then he has to account for the many Republicans who have been treating him as sane. He cannot have this both ways. If Trump is delusional, then so are his followers and his supporters and his enablers and the majority of Republicans, including many who are still running for office on the claim that the 2020 election was stolen. And if Somerby decides that the rest of Trump's followers are opportunists running a con, why is that more plausible than that Trump, a man who has been conning marks his entire life, should not be also running a con?

  3. "We have no way of knowing if Barr really had some such thought."

    Yes, we do have a way of knowing what Barr thought. He told everyone during his testimony and with his actions. These sources of information make it highly unlikely he had the thought Somerby attributes to him, in a major act of mind-reading of the type that he has previously complained about when others do it.

  4. What is up with this complete waste of time?

    How would the knowledge that Trump has mental disorder(s) change anything?

    Is that going to drain his voter base? No. It would be viewed as fake news.

    Would it change the Democratic strategy against him? No, that would require that the Democrats had an actual working strategy against him (note that this is actually worthy of exploration). And building one around that certainly wouldn't work.

    Does it lessen the events of Jan. 6, or the fake election fraud claims that so many believe, or any number of other Trump con jobs related things? It won't have an impact on those things either.

    So what is this, just a curiosity?

    Disappointed in this direction of TDH.

    1. In 2016, Hillary and her campaign found credible evidence that Trump might be colluding with the Russians in various ways. They tried to raise that issue with the press and were only perfunctorily reported as having such concerns. Meanwhile, the intelligence community was already on the trail. But look how difficult it was to get Republicans to pay attention to evidence.

      If Democrats or anyone else tries to suggest that Trump has psychiatric problems, the reaction will be similar. Bandy Lee tried it and got nowhere, neither did Mary Trump. The accusations will be reported, but there won't be any wider concern and the Republicans will make hay over partisan violation of rules of fairness in campaigning, as they over Russia.

      It doesnt' matter whether the accusations are true or not. They appear to be a misuse of nonpartisan processes for political goals. That's why neither the Democrats nor the mental health community will touch such topics with a 10-foot pole. Their credibility will be damaged and they will get no traction.

      Somerby would love it if the Democratic Party credibility were damaged among potential Trump voters, and if such issues are raised, they will innoculate Trump against any actual evidence that comes forward from other sources. So Trump would benefit. It isn't clear whether Somerby understands this or is just doing someone else's bidding here as a stooge for Trump's 2024 aspirations. Either way, discussing this is a hugely bad idea for Democrats.

      Hillary risked her campaign to bring forward information about compromising of the integrity of our elections and our nation (I do believe Trump was a traitor in his dealings with Russia throughout his presidency). She showed the kind of courage that Liz Cheney is showing. Somerby is on the wrong side with this and his actions aid Trump and those who are harming our country.

    2. Agree with most of that, except "[Somerby's] actions aid Trump and those who are harming our country"

      I honestly can't see how his musings could have any effect at all other than wasting the time of a few readers.

    3. Somerby's comments wouldn't be a problem if he weren't labeling himself liberal and calling this a liberal blog. Some Republican could come here, see the discussion about Trump's mental health and then spread the fake news that Democrats are calling Trump crazy -- much as Somerby uses accusations against specific reporters or cable news guests to characterize the entire mainstream press and liberals. The blog doesn't have to have a lot of readers because reporting about it in a Republican source would amplify the message.

    4. You completely lost me now.

      "Some Republican could come here, see the discussion about Trump's mental health and then spread the fake news that Democrats are calling Trump crazy"

      This is, itself, crazy. Almost requires processing each part individually, as each is crazy in some way.

      A Republican could come here
      They could spread fake news
      That Democrats are...
      Calling Trump crazy

      Is this hypothetical event going to be worse than when (this actually happened on more than one occasion...) a bunch of mental health experts did a diagnosis on Trump and labeled him mentally unfit or unwell and it appeared all over the mainstream media?

    5. No, it wouldn't be worse, and that is why I said we shouldn't do what Somerby has been calling for -- publically diagnose Trump. It breaks the Goldwater rule.

      Somerby perpetrates a con, tells a big lie, every time he calls himself liberal.

    6. Somerby previously had a high reputation as a serious liberal voice, so yes, he could be used to tilt some media towards more (nonsense) criticism of Dems. Every progressive Dem win is taken as a stab in the back by old school centrist establishment Dems like the Clintons, Gore, and Obama. We tried their way and it was a disaster. Dems are our only hope, but not neoliberal Dems.

      Check out what is going on with the Supreme Court this year; the future looks very bleak and Somerby is on the wrong side now.

      Also, in these bleak times, it just feels good to come here and thoroughly debunk Somerby's nonsense. Thanks Somerby for the daily jolt of satisfaction.

  5. "Also, they won't interview (carefully selected) medical specialists about this sensitive topic. "

    Somerby always includes the words "carefully selected" in his recommendation. Is that because he thinks mental health specialists need to be selected for their opinions, and only wants to hear from the ones he agrees with? Or is it because most specialists won't jeopardize their professional license in order to make a politically motivated diagnosis of someone based solely on their public appearances? That is explicitly forbidden by professional ethics and someone who does this WILL lose their license, as happened to Bandy Lee, who also lost her job because of her diagnosis-from-a-distance of President Trump.

    How trustworthy is the professional opnion of someone who violates a professional oath in that manner? How would Somerby, who far from an expert himself, be able to carefully select the right person? How would a news show be able to do it either?

    This is how people used to get railroaded into mental institutions in the past. It is why the rules against abuse of the diagnosis process exist in both psychiatry and psychology. People used to be put away for nefarious reasons by corruptible medical professionals. But Somerby seems to be suggesting that this process should be abused for political reason, to provide cover for a corrupt president. That would be very wrong. So wrong that it boggles my mind that Somerby would suggest it, to the point that I find myself wondering whether Somerby has lost touch with reality if he believes such a thing would be permissible for modern medical specialists.

  6. "In the next few days, we're going to look at mental disorder and its discontents. "

    Please, don't.

    Note also that Somerby has borrowed a phrase from the title of Freud's book "Civilization and its discontents." The content of that book has nothing whatsoever to do with mental health complexity or Trump's possible disorder:

    "Freud enumerates what he sees as the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual. The primary friction, he asserts, stems from the individual's quest for instinctive freedom and civilization's contrary demand for conformity and repression of instincts. Freud states that when any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, it creates a feeling of mild contentment. Many of humankind's primitive instincts (for example, the desire to kill and the insatiable craving for sexual gratification) are clearly harmful to the well-being of a human community. As a result, civilization creates laws that prohibit killing, rape, and adultery, and it implements severe punishments if these rules are broken. Thus our possibilities for happiness are restricted by the law. This process, argues Freud, is an inherent quality of civilization that gives rise to perpetual feelings of discontent among its citizens."

    This kind of grabbing of phrases on tenuous relevance is called "loose associations" and is a symptom of schizophrenic and manic thought, resulting in what is called word salad because meaning is sacrificed to the flow of consciousness dictated by an inability to properly filter relevance based on meaning. Somerby is unlikely to be schizophrenic, however, and more likely is engaging in a Dennis Miller style reference that he thinks is cute or clever. Miller's audiences used to feel astute if they caught the stream of inappropriate references he fed them in his comedy routines. To an educated audience, Somerby's remarks like this are both annoying and ignorant.

  7. "and on the ways our mainstream press corps avoids this basic part of 20th century medical science."

    There has been an ongoing discussion for decades in psychiatry and clinical psychology about whether it is helpful to think about mental and emotional functioning in terms of a medical or health-related metaphor. Practitioners recognize it as a metaphor, one among several, instead of taking it literally, as Somerby seems to be doing. Behavioral problems that arise from organic conditions (physiological health) are distinct from those arising from other causes. Somerby appears not to realize that distinct causes exist and seems to want to classify all disorders as organic and thus part of medical science.

    Somerby will be in over his head in the discussion he seems to be planning. He doesn't have the background to do it properly, competently, in a non-misleading way. His motive to excuse Trump will make his discussion self-serving. I strongly urge Somerby to change his mind about this and stick to opinions and topics a layperson can discuss without royally fucking it up.

  8. "We're not sure how to answer that question,"

    This is the reason why Somerby should not attempt a discussion of Trump's mental health, and also why the mainstream press shouldn't either. The important difference is that the press knows its limits, whereas Somerby does not.

  9. Stephen Colbert last night said that the importance of the hearings is to reassure us that we are all not crazy. He said the Republicans have been gaslighting us, but the hearing reminds us of the truth that we all know happened.

    Now Somerby is trying to gaslight us about Trump's motives and mental status. He wants us to believe that this was not a big con used to fundraise a quarter of a Billion $ from his own supporters, but that Trump actually believes he won the presidency. Trump was talking about a rigged election back when he beat Hillary, surprising everyone, including himself. If Trump actually believed his own lies, he would have spent those funds on defending the ballot, instead of giving it to his family and his cronies.

    Somerby is furthering the con, gaslighting us about Trump's culpability. Don't be taken in. Watch the hearing tomorrow morning or Colbert tomorrow evening.

    1. And Trump also claimed he was
      the popular vote winner. The investigation
      came to nothing.

    2. Hearing tomorrow postponed. Hearing Thurs at 1 Eastern, as scheduled.

  10. Only fair to note: the despised cable
    Shows have had Trump’s sister on
    many times and spoken of his actions
    in terms of psychological defects.
    There have been others, so
    What Bob claims here is not
    very close to true.
    Also, for years, Bob also treated
    such psychological profiling with
    utter contempt. Before he discovered
    It as a possible get out of jail free
    card for Trump.

  11. “(carefully selected) medical specialists”

    Somerby never says what criteria should or could realistically be used to select these specialists.

    And you can bet that these specialists would be treated no differently than Dr Fauci has been by the right wing.

  12. Bandy Lee, yesterday, on Twitter:

    “We fear “criminalizing a past president” might make us look like a backward dictatorship, not realizing that “exonerating a criminal” does the same. Democracies hold criminals accountable and exonerate innocents, without regard to how it might look.”

    Also this from 6/11:

    “Criminals make it hard to prosecute them. The worst make it the hardest, which is why it often takes decades to catch serial murderers and rapists. The worst may also have a psychological condition that beguiles and gaslights, bringing prosecutors and judges to their side.”

    Oof! Guess she wouldn’t make the cut of Somerby’s “carefully selected” medical specialists.